In the Headlines
After fading earlier this morning, market optimism returned Wednesday, as NYSE and Nasdaq futures moved into positive territory. Selling in the last two hours of yesterday's session resulted in a positive finish, but one that was well below earlier highs.
The selloff followed a report that raised questions about the ability of eurozone member nations to agree on a plan to bolster the European Financial Stability Facility -- also known as the bailout fund.
Finland's parliamentary OK of the plan helped drive gains this morning. Meanwhile, expectations are high for a meeting today in Greece between the nation's finance officials and representatives from the European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).
European stocks reversed earlier lows, and were trading mixed ahead of Wall Street's opening bell. The euro was trading higher vs. the dollar early Wednesday.
In Asian trade, stocks finished mixed on Wednesday on the heels of Wall Street's downside reversal. As in the U.S., traders fretted about next steps in the ongoing European debt saga. Chinese indices were weighed down by the financial sector there, with traders concerned about how a slowing economy will affect the nation's banks.
U.S. economic data has taken a back seat to eurozone developments lately, but this morning, there's a report with potential to affect stocks - if the number diverges sharply from views, and if traders can turn their attention away from Europe.
At 8:30 a.m. EDT, the Commerce Department releases its durable goods report for August. Excluding transportation, which can be volatile, economists see a decline from July.
The Energy Department will release its weekly count of crude oil reserves at 10:30 a.m. Economists expect to see an increase after last week's decline of 7.3 million barrels. The price of West Texas Intermediate crude fell $0.31 to $84.14 per barrel.
Gold rose by $1.40 per ounce, to $1,653.90 in electronic trade.
Today's round of earnings reports include fourth-quarter results from Family Dollar Stores (FDO), which said income was $0.66 per share on sales of $2.13 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of $0.66 a share and revenue of $2.12 billion.
Food seasonings maker McCormick (MKC) also beat views with per-share profit of $0.69. Wall Street had seen earnings of $0.64 a share. Sales were $920 million, ahead of expectations for $872.06 million.
Darden Restaurants (DRI), parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden, said first-quarter income was $0.78 per share, meeting Wall Street views. Sales were $1.94 billion, slightly ahead of analysts' outlook, which called for revenue of $1.93 billion.
After the bell is a second-quarter report from fertilizer maker Mosaic (MOS). The Minnesota-based large cap is seen earning $1.63 a share on revenue of $2.54 billion. Shares are down 15.2% this month, and 20.97% so far in 2011.
Early Movers and Analyst Actions
Premarket price gainers Wednesday included Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), advancing $0.34, 1.44%, to $23.93. The stock has bounced off lows following last week's executive shuffle. Heading into Wednesday's session, it was up 5.7% for the week.
Food distributor Sysco (SYY) fell $0.19, 0.72%, to $26.31 in early trade. Credit Suisse initiated coverage on the company with a rating of Underperform, saying it believed consensus estimates were too high, and that industry growth was maturing.
Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) also slipped on an analyst action. Citigroup downgraded the stock to Hold from Buy, citing inflation concerns and valuation. The stock fell $0.56, 0.38%, to $148.01 in early trade.